Vice President Joe Biden announced yesterday that he won’t be running for President. His declaration of non-candidacy ended months of speculation, as well as the hope in some quarters that he might enter the race for the Democratic nomination as an alternative to Hillary Clinton. Although Biden and his family apparently had decided they could commit to a campaign, after months of mourning the recent death of his son, he concluded that they simply did not have enough time to launch a successful bid.
I’m not quite sure why so many were urging Biden to run in the first place. After all, he’s sought the Democratic nomination on multiple occasions in the past, without making much of a mark. I suspect that the “second-string quarterback syndrome” was at play. Any football fan knows that when the first-string QB is struggling, the back-up’s popularity skyrockets — because he’s not out on the field getting sacked and throwing picks. With Hillary Clinton’s ever-shifting approach to questions about her private email server, and Bernie Sanders widely seen as unelectable, Biden seemed like a viable alternative.
It’s interesting that so many people who were urging Biden to run, and so many pundits who wrote favorably of that possibility, focused on Biden’s enjoyment of campaigning, as opposed to his capabilities, judgment, decision-making, and other qualities that would come into play if he actually were elected. The pro-Joe stories always seemed to strike the tone that Joe came across as a good guy who loved to press the flesh and eat corn dogs with the little guys out on the hustings. Gaffe-prone, to be sure, but an ever-smiling, two-fisted Happy Warrior who could be friends with those across the aisle and whose politics were agreeable to the liberal/progressive base of the Democratic Party.
Of course, those articles drew a favorable contrast between Old Joe and Hillary Clinton, who is widely depicted as wooden, contrived, and joyless in her campaign appearances and willing to endure them only because they are a necessary path to her ultimate goal. And Biden’s speech yesterday struck some of those same tones. Without mentioning Clinton by name, he criticized those who characterized Republicans as “enemies” — as Clinton did in the recent Democratic candidate debate — rather than as “opponents.”
So now “Middle-Class Joe” is out, and Hillary remains in. Today she’ll testify before the House Select Committee on Benghazi about her role in the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. installation in Benghazi, Libya that resulted in the death of the U.S. Ambassador and other Americans, and her public assertions in the aftermath of the attack. With Biden out of the race, her performance today will get more attention than ever.